40 Years at ICS

International Conference Services Ltd. (ICS) was established in 1976 in Vancouver, Canada, and 2016 marked our 40th Anniversary in the events industry. To celebrate this, we created a 40th Anniversary Photobook, which highlights some of our favourite memories and major milestones that we have achieved throughout the years.

Over the next few months, we will be releasing these 40 stories on our website and on social media.These stories are not only a celebration of the past 40 years and all that has been accomplished, but also a commemoration of all of the hard work and dedication (and let's not forget fun!) that our entire team has been a part of since the beginning.

To everyone who is and has been a part of our ICS family - our clients, suppliers and our internal team - Thank You for coming along this journey with us and here's to the next 40 years!

10. The Beach Boys Rock the House!

It's not everyday that conference delegates get to experience a performance by The Beach Boys (yes, the actual Beach Boys!).

At the World Conference on Lung Cancer in 2009 in San Francisco, California, USA, this was just the case, as this world famous band took to the stage after the Gala Dinner, and let's be honest, what's more Californian than The Beach Boys!

Françoise, our social event planner extraordinaire, was responsible for securing The Beach Boys for this conference. To say that it provided a memorable "Wow Factor" to the conference delegates would be nothing short of an understatement.

The WCLC delegates had a fantastic time, revelling in in some of The Beach Boys' most famous hits. Some of the delegates even took to dancing on their chairs, and at one point, even the tables!

Françoise said of The Beach Boys, "They were all extremely professional, super approachable and down to earth."

Carl Wilson, an original member of The Beach Boys, sadly passed away after a battle with Lung Cancer in 1998, so performing for a group of medical professionals working to eradicate Lung Cancer was very special for them, too.

When WCLC returned to the USA in 2015, the ICS team from Denver matched The Beach Boys performance with the equally impressive Kool and the Gang! 

9. The Austrian Connection

"I first met Franziska, the previous owner and president of ICS, at the IAPCO General Assembly in February 2006 in Mexico City. We chatted and instantly connected as we were both Austrian. Franziska soon asked me to come to Vancouver to take over the management of ICS but I declined as I was happy where I was. Shortly after, Franziska "tricked" me into coming to Vancouver for some "relaxing days" after a meeting we managed in Toronto in September 2006. This is where I met Iain.

Franziska arranged a lunch at the Vancouver Club where I would meet her business partner, Iain Mackay and where they offered me the position of Managing Directer at ICS. I was so surprised that I asked for some time to consider.

I decided to accept the offer to join ICS on a balcony in Rhodes, Greece, about a month later, with a bottle of red wine and my good friend and later Manager of ICS Europe, Inge Tremmel. We were in Greece for the ICCA Congress. Franziska was downstairs in the hotel bar with Christine Mackay, Iain's daughter. I went down to tell her the good news and we celebrated there and then. 

I arrived in Vancouver in March 2007 and was thrown right in as Managing Director. Franziska departed shortly after and I took over as President. On January 1, 2008, Iain made me partner."

Unbeknownst to Franziska, Iain, and Mathias; the Vancouver Club - where their initial meeting took place, would also be the hosting venue for our 40th Anniversary party which took place last year!

8. How Iain met Franziska

Franziska first met Iain MacKay, present Chairman of the Board for ICS, through one of her girlfriends. Gisela Maskell. Gisela had just sold her travel agency to Iain's wife, when Franziska was considering selling her own company. Gisela recommended that Franziska get in touch with Iain as she thought he might be interested in buying her company.

A few weeks later, Franziska and Iain met over coffee and they found themselves getting along extremely well and exchanging financial and procedural information about ICS. Franziska's dedication and hard work had built ICS into a leader in the events industry and Iain knew that this was an opportunity he could not pass up.

Within just three months, Franziska sold her company to Iain. It was agreed that Franziska would stay on for two more years (three days per week), allowing Iain sufficient time to find a replacement.

However, Franziska ended up staying longer, as it was a near impossible task for Iain to find a replacement with Franziska's knowledge and expertise. Little did Iain know that Franziska secretly had someone in mind and had already started her subtle recruitment process.

Fast forward a few months later and Mathias was introduced as the new Managing Director of ICS...and so his journey began...

7. The Start of a Career

Petra Feistl, Senior Conference Manager in our Vienna Office, had always wanted to combine her passion for travelling with her work. So, the decision to complete her Master's Degree in Tourism and Leisure Time Management in Austria was an easy one.

Her love for organizing conferences was finally anchored during her internship at ICS in 2004, and from this point on she knew that being in this fascinating industry was the right path for her.

ICS takes pride in our dedicated internship programs which have allowed dozens of people the opportunity to begin their careers. Many of our past interns still work here today or have gone on to do fantastic things in the industry.

During her internship, Petra worked in the Registration & Housing department closely with Françoise and two other interns from Germany. Her main project was the European Space Agency (ESA) Congress in Vancouver. The Congress saw approximately 5,000 delegates!

"This Congress was my greatest learning experience. It was my first truly international Congress and everything that comes with it. There was a great sense of teamwork, working late hours and enjoying the occasional pizza party! I have to say a huge thank you to Françoise and the Congress Managers from back then, as they really allowed us interns to learn how a huge Congress like this is organized and it really taught me the importance of internal team communication."

To this day, Petra keeps in touch with the two other interns, and they have a great friendship. She also still has one of her staff t-shirts to serve as a reminder of her very first, and hugely successful Congress.

After some thoughtful consideration, and even though Petra loved Vancouver she decided to move back to Vienna.

While working for a Professional Conference Organizer in Vienna, in fact, the same PCO where Mathias, our now president, was working at the time, Petra spent four years managing various medical Congresses and events. This made Petra appreciate the importance of being well organized, detail oriented and enthusiastic about your work. A fun fact: Petra was actually interviewed for this position by Mathias, and she was his last hire before he moved over to ICS!

After gaining further experience in communications and administration from an international company for several years, Petra decided it was time to "go back to her roots" and joined the ICS team in Vienna in 2016. She is so excited to be a part of the ICS team again, and is looking forward to many exciting events to come!

6. When ICS Puts Lawyers in Tents

ICS managed the International Bar Association's (IBA) social program back in 1998 including an optional dinner for delegates to attend - but there was a problem; as there was a lack of indoor venues that could facilitate such a sizeable group in the city.

So, Franziska using her creative and imaginative flair, suggested to host the event under a tent at Spanish Banks. With the local mountains and the Pacific Ocean as a natural backdrop, this was the perfect location for a truly "Canadian BBQ Experience". 

The event included checkered tablecloths, drinks, a huge BBQ and line dancing which, to the surprise of everyone, saw the IBA President - usually a very serious man - letting loose on the dance floor!

Just recently, ICS has integrated Judy Lane Consulting into the ICS family, which to this date, is still managing the International Bar Association's events. As you can see in this picture of Franziska and Judy Lane back in 1998, our story of working with Judy Lane has now come full circle. 

5.The Beginning of a Long Standing Relationship

International Conference Services managed the World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC) for the very first time in 2003, which also marks the year that our longstanding relationship with the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) really began.

To this day, WCLC 2003 Conference Chair Dr. Nevin Murray remains a great friend of ICS and Franziska, and IASLC is one of ICS' most important clients. Overall, this conference was hugely successful allowing the association to grow. The social program included a magnificent performance by Cirque du Soleil and a hot air balloon in BC Place during the Gala dinner evening!

4. Franziska Recognized as an Industry Leader

International Conference Services' President Franziska Kaltenegger was featured in WestCoast Magazine.

The article highlighted ICS and former president Franziska's views on ICS' philosophy, on launching a business and what she thought about the future of the events industry. The article was not only a spotlight on our company, but also a fantastic feature on Franziska as a strong and dedicated woman spearheading ICS.

3. World Class Service for World Leaders

In 1999, International Conference Services had the opportunity to work on the Informal Meeting of NATO Defence Ministers which was held in Toronto.

The ICS team, including Franziska and Sandy Biback, built an incredibly strong and trustworthy relationship with the committee even though they had very little lead time to prepare for the actual meeting.

ICS greatly contributed to making the event a huge success. So much so, that both Franziska and Sandy received thank you letters from Bob Corley, of the National Defence Headquarters.

2. Getting into the Sponsorship Game

In the 1990's, ICS raised sponsorship for the first time for a large international conference. This was largely in part to Franziska's new found sponsorship skills...

One million dollars was needed to produce this conference. To do so, Franziska knew that pharmaceutical sponsorship would be key. Determined, she set out on her plan to win as much sponsorship as she could.

To backtrack a little bit, Franziska had never tried to secure sponsorship for any of her past conferences. She asked her client to introduce her to the head of the sales department at a pharmaceutical company, trying to utilize his connections as best as she could to ensure this conference's overall success.

Franziska, along with her client, met the above mentioned sales department head for lunch. She was determined to come out of that meeting with a very substantial amount of sponsorship. Her client, on the other hand, was weary of asking for such a large sum of money and throughout the lunch, he simply avoided asking his pharmaceutical friend for any sponsorship at all! During the lunch, Franziska politely "nudged" her client under the table to kindly remind him of why they were in fact having lunch with this Pharmaceutical representative. When some more time passed and Franziska's client still did not ask the most important question and she realized she would have to be the one to do so.

When the pharmaceutical representative got up to use the restroom, Franziska and her client decided that if they wanted the sponsorship, Franziska would have to ask for it herself.

Expecting the pharmaceutical representative to say no, Franziska and her client were both pleasantly surprised when he agreed without hesitation to sponsor the event. He even hinted that he would have been happy to provide them with even more money than what they had asked for!

Since then, ICS has delivered great sponsorship results for numerous conferences taking place not only in Vancouver, but all around the world.

1. How ICS Came to Be

A little bit of background on how International Conference Services came to be...

...While working at the Hyatt Hotel in Vancouver, Franziska Kaltenegger came across an opportunity to buy a small company. Owning her own business was always something that she had intended to do, so she asked an industry friend to take a leap with her and buy this company. Together, they purchased the company in 1976 and called it CanWest.

Two years passed, and in 1978, Franziska's partner made the decision to begin a family, and thus, Franziska, packed with determination, imagination and drive, decided to keep her company going and push further into the events industry, rebranding CanWest into what we all know today as International Conference Services Ltd. (ICS).

In the early stages of ICS, one of Franziska's friends who worked for Air Canada suggested that she extend her event management services into the world of conferences. In particular, conferences from Europe, an idea which would eventually serve to propel ICS to not only national, but international recognition.

By expanding ICS services from corporate, incentive and destination management into conferences, Franziska was better able to plan for her company's future. By going after and winning conference proposals, Franziska could be strategic about how many events she would need to manage each year, in order to ensure ICS' continued success.

Franziska's determination to succeed has laid the building blocks for how ICS is run today. ICS has been responsible for putting on some amazing conferences all around the world (some of which will be featured here), and all of us at ICS are so appreciative of her guidance and support throughout the years.